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Opinion & Analysis

Ryder Cup Sunday Reflection: Do the Europeans just care more?



Of course, every competitor “cares” in the way that they want to win, and they prepare themselves accordingly; displays of emotion are more about personality than actually caring. “Who wants it more?” is a common commentator cliche, and a bad one at that. But in this article, I’m talking about really care, as in, if your backs are up against the wall you’ll do anything to win, including provide energy and spark even when getting trampled. Not just maintain acceptable body language despite losing, but acting in ways that inspire teammates. Fight and claw until the bitter end. And it starts at the top, with the veterans and future hall-of-famers, who know who they are.

The United States needs more care in them, it seems.

I’m going to call it the “Larry Nelson Curse.” Until the PGA of America publicly apologizes to Larry Nelson, the last guy to go 5-0 before Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli-Moli MOLINARI, for not giving him his richly-deserved captaincy, Team USA will never again win on foreign soil. Sad part is, it doesn’t seem they care. Very few players showed urgency, passion, zeal or enthusiasm this week in France. Take note of the “Or” and not the “And” in the preceding sentence; to hope for more than one of those adjectives was asking too much of Team USA. It could also be labeled “Watson’s Vindication.” After the infamous player rebellion of 2014, in response to Tom Watson’s heavy-handed captaincy, the players were given more say in player selection, but here we are, four years later, with eerily similar results overseas. Team USA couldn’t have been given a more American golf course; Le Golf Nationale seemingly was the player to be named later in the Statue of Liberty deal, hewn from the swamplands of south Florida. Yet here we are again, marveling at the creativity and camaraderie of Team Europe, wondering why the lads from the west can’t get this thing figured out. I could go into Azinger and his pods, but why discuss the only USA dominance of the past 20 years? It’s like ripping off a scab.

To be fair, Team USA is played out. I blame the catty relationship between the PGA of America (which co-runs the event) and the PGA Tour (which supplies the talent). You would think that the two bodies could get together and say, hey, a win benefits both of us. Let’s, for example, not schedule the FedEx Cup’s Tour Championship immediately prior to these matches. They seem to have that figured out for the near future; the leaner playoffs will end in late August, and the 2020 Ryder Cup, at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, will be played the last week of September. That should give everyone time to chillax and lose their games, or find them. Who knows?

Every session, Team Europe plays with a massive chip on its shoulder. This chip is a healthy, motivational thing. Do you think, for just a second, that any member of Team USA feels like an underdog? No, they don’t. I don’t get how Bubba Watson doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder. He seems to win in Augusta and Hartford, and that’s it. Is he too comfortable? I don’t know how Webb Simpson doesn’t play with a chip on his shoulder. He won a U.S. Open, then took half a decade off before winning the Players Championship. Two wins, no matter how big, in 8 years makes me wonder how much of a closer he is…and he went to my alma mater! I don’t know how Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods don’t play with a chip on their shoulders. They had to be captain’s picks, despite being the best golfers of a generation. They knew that they would be under a SwingVision lens, yet nothing.

In 2018, Europe dominated Team USA in all three formats. They won the singles competition by three points, tied the fourballs (better ball) events after spotting the visitors a 3-1 advantage, and rolled the foursomes (alternate shot) by a 6-2 margin. In 2014, Europe won by 5 points. Team USA returned the favor by winning by 6 points in 2016. Offended, the Euros won this one by 7 points. As much as Le Golf Nationale should have played into USA hands, Whistling Straits should remind fans of links golf of, well, almost a European links course. If Steve Stricker, the consumate Wisconsonian, is not named captain of Team USA, I’ll eat my cheese curds. I’m sure that they will be delicious. Stricker’s game was never about bomb and gouge, yet the majority of his golfers will be more comfortable with that game than the one demanded by LGN this past week. Can Whistling’s fairways be widened? Or, can tees be pushed up enough to allow Team USA to find wider areas, farther down the fairway? Failing that, can the tees be pushed soooooo far back, to 8K yards, that it will take a 300-yard carry to reach the fairway? Like sands through the bunker rake, these are the days of our lives.

In order to win over Buffalo fans, players new to the Sabres and the Bills (my hometown teams) need only do one thing: play like they care. Team USA looked flat and uninterested, while Team Europe was everything but that. I suspect that fans of Team USA will demand this of their golfers in 2020 and beyond. It’s to be expected that the squad will want to play well on home soil in 2020, but will they be able to carry it over to Rome in 2022? I have my doubts. As golfers aren’t allied with cities and regions, as happens in other major sports, we never truly invest our hearts in them, unless a team event is underway. Do we have a right to expect something patriotic from them, once a year at most? Perhaps not.

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Ronald Montesano writes for from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.



  1. arturo

    Oct 1, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    Golfwrx is proving that know how to beat a dead horse. Did you guys run out of topics for the year?

  2. Tom

    Oct 1, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Reminds me of the quote, “A lot of people are concerned about apathy, but I don’t care!”

  3. joro

    Oct 1, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    YES! They do want to win and are way more together than the U S players. They travel together, eat together and not a bunch of individuals like the American. The do want it more and we do.

  4. Waly

    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:18 am

    I think that both teams wanted to win, no question about it, however, where we are concerned it’s more individualistic, with the Europeans it’s more about the team/country. I’m not saying that we don’t have pride but it was clearly evident that the Europeans were more involved and enthusiastic as a team to be there and play for their country in the Ryder Cup.

    • BMoney

      Oct 1, 2018 at 11:57 am

      Nation of greed? So you’d rather live in a socialist/liberal utopia than a capitalistic country?

      Feel free to move, pal. See ya!

  5. David

    Oct 1, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Honestly, I believe it’s more then just caring. Politics in this Country show us that we are no longer a Nation of people caring about people, we are a Nation of greed. I saw a lack of interest in US Ryder Cup players faces from the beginning. We are spoiled. If we can’t have it all our way, we just won’t play. The crowd was against them, the weather was colder then they would have liked and there’s no money in it for them. So, whats the incentive? Pride? What’s that?

  6. ChipNRun

    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:48 am

    “GUNMETAL Sep 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm
    I’m so bored with this take… Two years ago in Hazeltine, nobody mentioned a lack of caring on the US side. Wide fairways and fast greens must have helped with their desire, I guess…”

    GM noticed some of the same things that Wall Street Journal writer Brian Costas did. Costas points to USA problems such as: fairways not hit, non-soft greens and 2-10 performance by Furyk’s captain’s picks.

  7. Majorduffer

    Oct 1, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Our teams senior statesmen stunk up the golf course and it was a team with toxic Patrick Reed and his whining wife making everyone upset. We can only hope Cpt. Maniac Reed doesnt make the next team or if he does then set him down for everything but individual play. There is a reason that Jordan didn’t want to play with Reed and no one wants to practice with him. He is a toxic little
    troll. The team must move more toward younger players and have the senior statesman players as vice captains. Or we could offer automatic US citizenship to
    Tommy, Rory, Sergio, Poulter, Olsen, & Stenson.

    • ChipNRun

      Oct 1, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      When Patrick’s Captain America went 3-1-1 in 2016 – including a 1 UP win Sunday over Rory M – everybody loved him. Now, MD wants to make Reed scapegoat for a USA team that couldn’t hit fairways and went 2-10 with captain’s pick players.

      How short is our memory…

  8. dixiedoc

    Oct 1, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Many of our players are more interested in the “I” in TEAM than the “WE”. It’s pretty obvious in their demeanor, at least some of them.

  9. Jeff

    Sep 30, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    Everyone wants to win. The difference is the ones that don’t want to lose. The euros don’t want to lose over there and it shows.

  10. Onetime17

    Sep 30, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    European players are judged by their performance in 2 events… The Open championship and the Ryder Cup. They just flat out care more. It’s a shame, but I think for the USA to be consistently relevant they need to incentivize the players with winning shares $$$. On the other hand I’m not sure that would even work being they all make 10 million + a year. Europeans will be celebrating this for weeks… this will be quickly forgotten in the US (players included) too bad

  11. gunmetal

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    I’m so bored with this take. Since the US doesn’t show the emotion you want to see while getting their butts kicked – that means they don’t care as much as the Euros. Two years ago in Hazeltine, nobody mentioned a lack of caring on the US side. Wide fairways and fast greens must have helped with their desire, I guess.

    So many factors involved here, not the least of which was general fatigue likely from the FedEx Playoff run that involved playing 4 out of the last 5 weeks which is a real deal for older or more injury prone players. Course setup was a big deal and selecting Mickleson with the way he drove the ball all season was not a great idea knowing Bjorn would set the course up the way he did.

    If you think the US Players don’t care as much as the Euros you might be right, though I would disagree and neither of us know. After reading Feinsteins book on Hazeltine it’s tough to walk away with the take that we just don’t care that much or as much as the Euros.

    We got beat down by great world class talent from the other side of the pond with a very wise captain. That simple.

  12. 4RiGHT

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Tiger looked stoned in the presser. Completely defeated…

  13. IMO

    Sep 30, 2018 at 9:09 pm


  14. Stump

    Sep 30, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    Compare Fleetwood to Tiger. Fleetwood showed genuine excitement when he made key shots, genuine emotion. Yet on Tour, he is more laid back. In the RC, Tiger seldom did more than a small fist pump, yet on tour he is known to make rather large gestures when he holes key putts.
    Does it mean that Fleetwood cares more than Tiger? Only those two know the truth, but on the surface, it seems to be true.

    • CaoNiMa

      Oct 1, 2018 at 2:15 am

      No it just means that Eldrick is a selfish little child who only cares about himself and getting attention for his own successes and not for a team. But we’ve all known that since he was a child. Ooops he still is an immature child, listen to the way he talks and scoffs at others questions

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Opinion & Analysis

Brooks Koepka’s coach, Claude Harmon III, on BK’s PGA Championship victory, working with the game’s best, and more



Coming fresh of the celebration of Brooks Koepka’s fourth major win, Koepka’s long-time coach, Claude Harmon III chatted with Johnny Wunder as he was just about to hop on a plane back to The Floridian.

Here are the highlights of their conversation.

JW: Claude how you doin’?

CH3: Uh, I’m hungover!

JW: Brooks is walking off the 18th green after another major triumph. What is the first thing you guys said to each other?

CH3: Well, obviously there was a lot of emotion in that moment, but he told me it was the happiest he has ever been on the golf course, and after everything he’s done, that’s a big statement.

For him to put in all the hard work and to fight as hard as he did on a golf course that completely changed on the last day and come out on top makes me extremely grateful to be a part of the team that supports that. I believe he will find out more about himself from getting through the final nine holes than he would if he would have had a parade coming in and won by seven.

JW: That’s a great point. It seems like he is more apt to win even more majors based on that back nine than he would have otherwise.

CH3: I don’t think if you were watching it on TV you could have any appreciation for just how difficult it was. What DJ did yesterday was impossible and having that up ahead applies even more pressure to a leader. Ricky Elliott and BK are looking at the scoreboard and seeing DJ and 3 under and having no idea how that’s even possible. It was that tough.

JW: I think Brooks stubbornness is part of his true greatness. Would you agree?

CH3: His perspective constantly was “I’m still in the lead and someone is going to have to catch me and this golf course is extremely difficult.” Even after all the bogeys on the back side, he still controlled the lead and kept that mantra. The crowd yelling “DJ! DJ!” actually didn’t piss him off, it woke him up.

JW: How did yesterday compare to Shinnecock? 

CH3: At Shinnecock it was an interesting situation because Fleetwood…posted before BK was even off and in that case, Brooks said it was like playing against a ghost. No matter what he does, Tommy isn’t going to make any more mistakes or change in any way. That’s a tough scenario when you are staring at a number that won’t move for 5 1/2 hours.

JW: What do Brooks and DJ have that people can learn from.

CH3: It’s funny because we hear these cliches in sports psychology all the time, but I believe those two are the living embodiment of ONE SHOT AT A TIME. They don’t look back. Ever.

JW: Speaking on DJ. I’m watching the back nine and thinking to myself this guy is playing out of his mind, it was literally a battle of the best.

CH3: We talk about it all the time in golf, what we always want is the two best players in the world going toe to toe. We had that yesterday and I hope as time goes by we can look at this final round as a battle we will be talking about for a long time. Best players in the world on a tough but fair golf course with the ultimate prize on the line. In situations like this when there is this kind of pressure and these stakes you can look at the leaderboard and see the cream rising to the top. Rory, DJ, Jordan all with good rounds on a really tough day.

JW: You met Brooks in 2013, he showed up in his mom’s beat up Explorer and don’t know him at all. What was your first impression?

CH3: I was introduced to him by Pete Uihlein, his old roommate, and at first glance, he had raw talent and a ton of speed, but no plan. At the time he was hitting a draw and was uncomfortable with that. He told me his current coach wanted him to hit draws, and I said well that’s your fault, not your coach’s. It’s the player’s responsibility to manage himself and the information he’s comfortable with. When we worked on him getting into a fade, he started to click and he turned to me and said “it can’t be this easy.” My reply was “it has to be this easy!” At that level, under the gun, it better be easy. [Golf is] tough enough already.

JW: What were his career goals early on?

CH3: Even then, he wanted to be an elite player who won multiple majors. I was coaching Ernie Els at the time who had just won his fourth major and Brooks was on the Challenge Tour. He was committed to getting there but needed guidance, someone with a plan that wasn’t just his golf swing. Obviously, it worked out.

JW: What would you say is the Harmon secret to getting the best players in the world to peak as often as you guys do?

CH3: My dad told me: “What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.” At the Masters this year Brooks, in practice, was really struggling. Look, it’s Masters week and I’m not going to go in there and start putting thoughts in his head. At that point, if this is a shuttle launch, we are in the cockpit and there is no turning back. My dad always had his guys have a go-to shot that they “knew” they could hit. Brooks calls it his “fairway finder” which is a squeeze off fade with a driver. I told him to hit a couple of those knowing it might spur some confidence. After a few absolute flushed misses, his confidence went up and he turned to me and said…”fairway finder all day.” The rest is history.

JW: You coach DJ, Brooks, Jimmy Walker and Rickie. Describe each in one word

CH3: Natural

JW: Brooks
CH3: Tough MF

JW: Rickie
CH3: Genuine

JW: Jimmy
CH3: Soulful

JW: Thanks old friend
CH3: Talk soon, thanks man.

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On Spec: Swing weight is overrated



A deep dive into one of the most talked about but truly misunderstood aspects of club building: swing weight. What it really means, and why it isn’t the end all be all for a set of clubs.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Bethpage Black



Bethpage’s Black course was designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened for play in 1936. It was immediately considered one of the best tests of golf in the world, and it has tested golfers coming from all over the world in its 83-year history. Bethpage State Park itself has five courses. The Green was the first course built and was originally called Lennox Hills Country Club. In the early 1930s, the Bethpage Park Authority purchased Lennox Hills CC and other adjacent property and turned the whole thing into what is now known as Bethpage State Park. Course architect A.W. Tillinghast was hired to remodel what would become the Green course as well as build the Blue, Red, and finally the Black. The Yellow Course was designed by Alfred Tull and opened in 1958.

Bethpage first hosted a major championship in 2002 when it hosted the U.S, Open. What is somewhat forgotten 17 years later as it hosts its third major, is how much the course had fallen into disrepair by the mid-1990s. Luckily, the USGA could see through all of that and helped fund a complete restoration that was overseen personally by Dave Catalano, the larger than life (in both stature and personality) head of Bethpage State Park. Dave had been working at Bethpage since he was a kid in 1967, picking up papers in the picnic area. It was his baby, and with Rees Jones by his side, they painstakingly restored the Black to its former greatness and into a true championship test of golf. After the PGA Championship, the Black will be back in the spotlight 2024 as host of the Ryder Cup, joining a very short list of courses to host a U.S. Open, a PGA Championship, and a Ryder Cup.

Playing the Black is one of the most unique experiences in the game because of what it takes to get a tee time. There are a very limited number of tee times. They are easier to get if you are a NY resident, but for most of us, it’s first come, first serve. Which in practical terms means they have a parking lot with numbered spaces and people start showing up the day before to sleep in their cars to play. In fact, I can proudly say that the last three times I slept in my car it was just to play at Bethpage. One of those times I didn’t even get out on the Black and had to settle for playing the Red! Should have eaten dinner in the car I guess….

Every time I have slept in the car I have had a great time. It’s a party in the lot with a bunch of golfers hanging out all excited to play the next day. There’s usually a few beers around and one of the times, someone called a cab and went and got 50 cheeseburgers from McDonald’s at 1 a.m. to show us all some top-notch NY hospitality! That’s definitely not an experience you will have going to play any other top courses!

Once you finally do get to sleep, the staff wakes you up around 4 a.m. to go get in line and get your tee time and course assignment. Then you can go back to sleep or go eat breakfast or hit balls or whatever you want until it’s your turn to tee off. On your way to the tee, you see the famous WARNING sign telling you that the Black Course is an extremely difficult course which they recommend only for highly skilled golfers. Hopefully, you didn’t lose your tee ticket because you will need that to get onto the tee and trust me, they aren’t messing around with the rules!

The golf course itself sits on a huge, sprawling, fantastic piece of land with abundant elevation change and lots of random contours. The bunkering is big and bold and not to be messed with. There is abundant long fescue and numerous trees off to the sides of the holes which combined with the beautiful bunkering makes for a very beautiful setting.

The first hole is a downhill, almost 90-degree dogleg right. The fairway is pretty flat and so is the well-bunkered green. The key for the player is to put their drive into the right place in the fairway to get a good angle to the hole location. From here you cross Round Swamp Rd and head to the second, which is a short, uphill par 4 of 389 yards. The fairway slants a little right to left and the green is elevated and can be a challenge to hold. The third is a par 3 that plays about 160 yards normally but has been brought back to 230 the PGA. This is one of the more interesting greens on the course; it’s wide on the right and falls away as it gets to the back and tapers to a smaller, more narrow section on the left. Bunkers flank the short left and right side of the green.

The fourth hole is vintage Bethpage Black and probably the most photographed on the course. A huge bunker flanks the left side of the fairway off the tee of the 517-yard par-5. Another, even more huge bunker looms at the end of the fairway cut into the from right to left. The tee shot is downhill but the rest of the hole is uphill. There is a second fairway to layup over the big bunker where you will have a partial view of the small, flattish green that falls away slightly and is protected by two more deep bunkers to the front and left. The fifth is a monster par 4 of almost 480 yards. A massive fairway bunker guards the right side of the fairway which is also the best angle to come into the small, elevated green guarded by two deep bunkers short and one over the green.

FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK – MAY 15: A general view of the fifth green is seen during a practice round prior to the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 15, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

No. 6 gets back into the more open and less tree-lined part of the property. The tee shot is semi-blind and over a hill. The landing area is pinched by bunkers on both sides. The long hitter who can carry the hill should have a very short shot into the flattish, oval shaped green that’s open in front and protected by bunkers on both sides. No. 7 is a converted par 5 that plays as a par 4 for the PGA. At 524 yards, it’s very long and the tee shot requires a long poke over another large fairway bunker. The green is again pretty flat and protected by deep bunkers in front.

The eighth hole is unique for the Black as it’s the only hole with water in play. A 210-yard drop shot to a green with some slope from right to left and front to back and a ridge running on a diagonal angle through the middle of the green. The shot must carry the pond short of the green and there is a deep bunker left and a hillside right. Nine is a 460-yard hard dogleg left that drops down off the tee and back up to the green. Another very deep bunker guards the left side and can be carried by the longer hitter. The right side of the fairway is the safe play off the tee but leaves an awkward shot out of a gully up to the green. The green is heavily guarded in front again by deep bunkers.

As the players make the turn, they are confronted with another long, tight par 4 of just over 500 yards. Hitting the fairway is key here as the fairway is heavily guarded by bunkers and fescue. The green sits on the other side of a little gully and is guarded once again by a set of deep bunkers. The 11th hole is 435 yards and has probably the most interesting green on the course. It has a little false front and two distinct tiers with some nice internal movement. A really good green on any course it stands out on the Black amongst what is mostly a flatter set of greens. 12 forces the players to carry it 285 over a massive cross bunker on the 515-yard par 4. The green is back to the more typical flattish oval, and characteristically is guarded in the front on both sides by deep bunkers. 13 is a par 5 of over 600 yards. One of the least bunkered holes on the course, there are a few bunkers on the left and a great little cross bunker about 60 yards short of the green that obscures the view of the green and will make the players think twice about going for the green in two. 14 is the best chance for birdie on the course. A par 3 that plays only 160 yards over a valley to a narrow, long green.

After walking off the 14th green the players cross back over Round Swamp Road to the home stretch of the course. 15 is always the hardest hole on the course for me when I play the Black. The hole plays 460 yards. The tee shot is flat to a fairway that bends slightly right to left and has no bunkers. The second shot is massively uphill. Over a hillside set with bunkers and a small section of fairway to a green set into the top of the hill and guarded by the deepest bunkers on the course. A very hard hole to make par if you miss the fairway or miss the green. The 16th has a downhill tee shot that will test the player’s judgement of the wind if there is any present. The green is well guarded especially to the right and is small with a little slant to it. The 17th is an uphill brute of a 210-yard par 3. The green is 45 yards wide and is huge. However, it does not look big from the tee as it is set amongst a veritable minefield of bunkers waiting to swallow up any wayward shots. The players walk up a hill to the 18th tee and stare down at a fairway that gets severely pinched in the middle by the huge bunkers on both sides. The green is then back uphill, it’s medium sized with a slight kidney shape and two deep, artistically shaped bunkers set into the hillside short.

All of this adds up to a great test of championship golf.  The course is pretty straightforward. There is not a ton of strategy other than hit it long and straight and make as many putts as you can. The greens are mostly pretty flat so there should be a lot of chances for birdie for those that can reach the greens in regulation. That said, the course has a ton of character when it comes to the land movement and elevation changes as well as the massive, artistic bunkers. New Yorkers are VERY proud of the Black and for a very good reason. It’s a fantastic golf course. Golf needs more top courses like the Black that are accessible to everyone and challenging to even the best players in the world.


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19th Hole